This Time Last Year: 2010 European Grand Prix – Valencia

Posted: June 21, 2011 by thevillainf1 in This Time Last Year.....revisiting the 2010 season

Valencia is a great circuit….but only on paper. The track looks great, it has the hangbridge, the paddock in an old fisherman’s wharf, the hustle, bustle and glamour of Monaco (allbeit a tad toned down). Sadly since F1 first got there in 2008, the amount of competitive overtakes seen on the track can be counted on one hand. Last year’s race was pretty much one long, boring procession only -briefly- spiced up and shaped by Mark Webber spectacular ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ crash with Heikki Kovalainen and Kobayashi’s final lap madness.

Red Bull once again locked out the front row with Vettel on pole after Mclaren had finally broken Red Bulls qualifying dominance in Canada, making it 8 out of 9 pole positions for RBR. However unlike this season, early 2010 Red Bull was still struggling with reliability so they did not fully exploit their car’s superior pace in terms of points, and the Mclarens were leading the way in the WDC and WCC with Lewis and Jenson 1 and 2 in the standings after their Canada triumph. At this point in the season, Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton definately had the best cards to snatch the title. Compared to this year with Vettel so dominant, one could argue it does not bode well for the competition in 2011. Hamilton and Alonso were on row two, Massa and Kubica made up row three, and Button saw himself only on row 4 flanked by rookie Hulkenberg, only one of the first times the Hulk managed to beat Barichello in qualifying.

The start was quite exciting, Hamilton got a great launch and went flying past Webber who sort of botched it. Alonso subsequently also mugged Webber into T1. Hamilton had a go at Vettel into turn one but another of his Vettel’s now characteristic ‘Schumi’ chops kept Hamilton behind him, with both cars making contact as Vettel squeezed Hamilton into the apex (thought they weren’t allowed to change lines under braking? – ah yes, on lap one everything is permitted lol). Hamilton sounds a bit panicky on the radio complaining of vibrations but his pace does not seem too badly affected by some front wing damage he incurred on the contact. Meanwhile Webber is going backwards all the time, getting passed by Massa into T2 as well and ending a dreadful first lap going from p2 to p9!

As everyone settles in for the procession, Webber serves up a spectacular crash as he’s just a tad too optimistic trying to slipstream the much slower Lotus of Kovalainen on lap 9. This was a battle for position because Webber pitted early on lap 8 trying to get out of traffic as he was stuck down in p9 behind Hulkenberg anyway (damn you durable Bridgestones – the hards he put on would have easily allowed him to finish the race without stopping again). Kovalainen decides to defend the position, a bit futile of course, and Webber got caught out by the huge closing speed and how much earlier the Lotus had to brake compared to the Red Bull. This delivered the most spectacular crash of the season with Webber flipping up into the air, landing upside down and slamming hard into the barrier. Luckily, neither driver got injured but both were obviously out of the race.

This crash triggered a safety car period which basically determined finishing position. The inlaps for those that had not yet been caught by the safety cars also proved to be highly controversial, and saw a new piece of classic Ferrari whinging to the FIA. The most controversial moment was when Hamilton passed the safety car as it was exiting the pitlane, with Alonso getting stuck behind. This payed great dividends to Hamilton, who retained p2 after his stop, but the Ferraris suffered badly with them ending up p 8 and p15. While Hamilton clearly violated the rules with this overtake, it was just a matter of a few metres. Had he not held back that much, he’d have passed the safety car before the safety car line on track and his move would have been perfectly legal. As it was, he passed it just behind that lines, and was up for a penalty. Showing the bad blood of 2007 still runs within Alonso, he immediately started whining on the team radio for the stewards to have a look into Hamilton’s move. I understand he’d want that checked out, but it all sounded a bit desperate and petty on the Ferrari team radio. Alonso’s saying all the team should do for the rest of the race is be on the radio to Charlie Whiting about Hamilton, his race engineer Stella complaining how unfair it was but had to get Alonso back in line for him to focus on his own race. Kobayashi was one of the few people not to stop during the SC period, and this put him in a spectacular p3 ahead of Jenson Button who also profited massively from the SC madness. With Sauber having a dismal season up to that point, this was the first indication of Sauber’s improved form in the latter half of the season once James Key had joined them.

While the Ferraris suffered badly from the safety car, Michael Schumacher was in even worse shape. As he wanted to exit the pits, the red lights came on at the end of the pitlane and Schumi was left waiting there for the entire field to come through putting him all the way at the back of the field with the exception of Trulli who was already two laps down following a long time in the pits with technical problems. All throughout the race the Mercs were struggling with brake temperature as well, something to keep in mind for this year’s race as brakes could play an important part on this tricky track with many heavy braking zones.

We’ll revisit the stewards’ decision later but first there was of course the restart. Vettel took them along very slowly and caught himself out by low brake and tire temp when he launched into the final corner and locked up, going slightly wide but Lewis Hamilton could not profit from this mistake. From then on things settled back down very quickly and the procession was underway again. Ferrari’s constant whinging to Charlie finally did come to fruition and Hamilton was issued a drive through penalty. Crucially though, it took the stewards a very long time to issue this penalty -Ferrari did have a legitimate gripe over this- and Hamilton managed to eke out a big enough gap to a stunning Kobayashi who fairly easily retained p3 ahead of Button, and emerged from the pitlane ahead of the battling duo. While the penalty was indeed deserved – rules are rules, but Ferraris’ whining was very petty indeed. Hamilton’s transgression was a matter of just a few meters and I very much doubt it was intentional, he just hesitated for a split second and Alonso would have probably been stuck behind the SC regardless of Hamilton’s move. To say Hamilton ruined their race is therefore quite unfair, their race would have been ruined regardless, the only thing different is that Hamilton would have been in p7 rather than p2, but it wouldn’t have changed the Ferrari’s position at all. In addition, stewards were investigating about 10 cars for not respecting the safety car lap delta, but were only issued a 5 seconds time penalty after the race, which did not change much: Buemi lost a spot to Alonso and De La Rosa dropped out of the points for Rosberg to take p10.

While Hamilton did not lose track position from the penalty, it did rob us viewers of what could have been a good battle with Vettel. From 2 seconds behind Hamilton dropped to 15 seconds behind, allowing Vettel to basically cruise home to victory. Meanwhile Button could not find a way past Kobayashi and was not even really trying, knowing Kamui would have to do his mandatory pitstop to fit the softs before the end of the race. Astonishingly, Sauber left it to lap 52 of 57 (every time I watch a 2010 race I fall even more in love with Pirelli) and Kobayashi rejoined just behind Alonso in p9, ahead of his Sauber teammate De La Rosa. Luckily we have Kamui to save the race and deliver some spectacle, as he was absolutely flying on his fresh options on low fuel. His final two laps were quite stunning: First passing Alonso on the penultimate lap with a daring outbraking move (read back to my blog post on overtaking and think that if Alonso had turned in aggressively instead of very fairly giving room we’d have called for a penalty on Kamui which would have probably happened with the 2011 stewarding). Then on the final corner of the final lap he pulls another superb move on Buemi to snatch P7.

Thinking of how Kobayashi managed to pull of these moves with great driving but crucially on fresher Bridgestones than his competition, this does make me optimistic that we could have plenty competitive overtakes in 2011 with the Pirellis. In addition, Valencia will see another double DRS zone like in Canada. While I found it severe overkill on Canada, a track where we’ve seen plenty of passing throughout the years, I believe it will be a good thing for Valencia. The activation zone is shorter than Canada, and there’s a good chance for DRS to work as intended to get cars alongside in the braking zone for a good fight (ie not as in Canada and Turkey where cars came sailing by on the straight). The DRS zones will be separated by three corners, unlike in Canada where it was just the wall of champions chicane. I believe we’ll see DRS deliver spectacle without the sour taste we got in the above mentioned GPs this year.

So now it is time for my predictions. I’m still on a high for prediciting the Button win in Canada so let’s see if I can get it right again (nevermind I also had pole for Button and stuffed up p2 and 3 – the win is all that really counts lol).

I believe Mclaren will come out swinging and continue their drive putting Red Bulls’ dominance to an end. In reality, Mclaren have probably had the fastest car in race pace since Spain, and I truly believe Red Bull’s dominance is nearing its expiration date. That said, Hamilton will snatch pole in a very close fight with Vettel. Valencia will be the hot blown diffuser’s final hurrah, with the ban coming into effect for the next GP at Silverstone and I do believe Red Bull will be among the hardest hit (Renault will suffer most in my opinion). But Valencia is a track that also nullifies another of Red Bull’s major quali advantage: unrestricted DRS use . A large part of the quali gap Red Bull have is that they  have so much downforce so that they are able to use DRS earlier than all others even before they have properly exited the corner (Vettel in Turkey’s Turn 8 a classic example) , but Valencia does not really have the medium speed corners where this comes into play. Hamilton will be on a charge after his dismal weekends in Monaco and Canada, and there’s no doubt this rot he’s in will end at some point. Webber will pip Alonso for p3 in quali. Crucially, I have just read this breaking news story, that already in Valencia the FIA will force teams to use the same engine map in quali during their first stint in the race, which would make it impractical for Red Bull to use their extreme mapping for quali. That said, the Red Bull remains a stunning car so they will still quali well, but it will allow Hamilton to pip Vettel. I’m surely looking forward to quali!

On to the race, I’m going out on a limb and predict another Button victory through clever strategy and precision overtaking. Perhaps even more controversially, I’m going to put Hamilton p2 for a Mclaren 1-2 after a botched pitstop lets Button through. Vettel will lose out to Webber for P3. I don’t see the Ferraris performing particularly well on race pace but Alonso will pick up some solid points, and I see Massa struggling again, as the medium tire will probably not suit them too well and we will not see the supersofts (Pirelli are bringing the soft and medium tires, and the harder the tires the bigger the struggle for Ferrari it seems). Merc will struggle because of their continuing trouble with rear tire wear, which is going to be very high anyway on this track. There you have it, my review and predictions. Please do give your views and predictions in the comments so we can determine bragging rights next week😉

Pole: Hamilton

Win: Button

p2: Hamilton

p3: Webber

Comments
  1. Chris Sims says:

    Pole: Vettel

    Race
    P1: Alondo
    P2: Vettel
    P3: Button

    I’m going bold.

  2. Althasil says:

    Pole: Vettel

    Win: Button
    p2: Hamilton
    p3: Vettel

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pole: Vettel

    1. Hamilton (After three 2nd places at Valencia, I think he deserves it)
    2. Button
    3. Webber
    4. Alonso
    DNF. Vettel (well, we can all dream)

    Predicted Standings
    Vettel – 161pts
    Button – 119pts
    Hamilton – 110pts
    Webber – 109pts
    Alonso – 81pts

  4. Alec Hudson says:

    Pole: Vettel

    1. Hamilton (After three 2nd places at Valencia, I think he deserves it)
    2. Button
    3. Webber
    4. Alonso
    DNF. Vettel (well, we can all dream)

    Predicted Standings
    Vettel – 161pts
    Button – 119pts
    Hamilton – 110pts
    Webber – 109pts
    Alonso – 81pts

  5. Matt Ruda says:

    Pole: Vettel
    Finger Boy will find some way to get on top. Lewis may choose to put less wear on his quali tires hoping to improve race performance.

    1st: Hamilton

    I’m biased as hell because I’m a Lewis fanboy, but still, all signs point to a good finish for him. His attitude post-Canada was one of reflection, with him realizing where things went wrong (contrast that to his now famous Monaco rant). He’s had strong showings in the past, and as you pointed out Pirelli tires mean no single file lines start to finish. Look for Lewis to keep on Seb’s gearbox for quite some time. I think Hamilton will play it a bit safer, but will still end up on top.

    2nd: Vettel

    Starting to ban the hot blowers and the debut of medium rubbers will be an uncertainty for every team, but I think both will hurt Red Bull, particularly Seb, hard. I’m willing to bet Red Bull will not use their uber quali button as it will be too gas guzzling for the race. Combine that with new tires (true they tested in Canada, but in vastly different weather) and lingering doubts from Canada and Seb will be racing at a disadvantage. He’ll be no pushover, but he will hesitate enough for Lewis to get the better of him. His massive skill and car advantage will keep him in P2, but he will be out of the top spot.

    3rd: Kobayashi

    I’m going to take an extreme guess here. I absolutely adore Kobayashi, and the first race that (for me) cemented him as a rising legend was Valencia 2010. He drove like he was born and raised on that track, conserving his tires and his position, and then striking hard with fresh compound beneath him. Look for him to start from around P10-P12 having saved many sets of tires. Then Kobi can do what he does best. I think he’ll be able to do one less stop then the other upper midfield cars, and he will slice and dice his way through the field.

    As for the others, look for Alonso to have a solid race and end up P5. Massa, despite a decent Canada (HRT incident aside) will once again slip back to his typical finish-3-places-behind-Fernando style. Renault will be utterly boned by the new engine map rules, finishing less then their best. Force India will have a strong showing, topping the midfield teams. Look for Virgin to recover form following Canada, and at least three drivers to find a wall.

  6. Ferrari123planb says:

    pole: vettel

    1. button (hes been super quick lately as he proved in canada and monaco he can close gaps)

    2.vettel (he will get overtaked by vettel somewhere in the DRS zone as mclaren has the best drs)

    3.hamilton (he knows he needs a strong comeback)

    4.massa (he will drive his heart out to stay with ferrari

    5.alonso (he just coudnt bring it)

    those are my predictions. alonso may not be able to perform here in my opinion but i believe it will be all ferrari in silverstone as there cars should perform best at UK.

  7. thevillainf1 says:

    some bold predictions here, keep ’em coming😉

    I think you might be in for a rude awakening for ferrari at silverstone. It’s the return of the hard tire they struggled with so massively, and their aero is just not up to par compared to mclaren and rbr, with silverstone being a very aero dependent track, i don’t have high hopes for ’em there.

    • Ferrari123planb says:

      ya i know what u mean. but i like what ferrari has done with development lately. they also stated if they cannot get a win by silverstone there giving up on the season to focus on 2012. theres one thing ferrari did right in the last couple of weeks. they fired aldo costa who designed the F10 (2010), F60 (2009), and the f150 itaila (2011). hes responsible for the chassis of those cars. they put in Pat Fry as the technical dirrector who worked with McLaren for over 10 years and made the McLaren from 2007 and 2008 so he may be able to help them.

  8. thevillainf1 says:

    Costa was also involved in the 06 and 07 cars….not exactly dogs those cars, neither was the 08 and ’10 one😉 Costa was technical director, but Tombazis, their chief designer is still working there.
    Even if Ferrari got Adrian Newey (which they tried last year but he refused) it still wouldn’t work, they need to change their blame culture and get rid of DI Montezemelo and their way too strict hierarchy to let the team breathe a bit. Too much whining, too much politics going on there these days.

    • Ferrari123planb says:

      wow. ferrari is in deep shit. lolz🙂 but when do u think ferrari will be winning a WDC agian? 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, never?!?!?! im very scared steve lol

  9. thevillainf1 says:

    when they kick Luci Di Montezemelo out..or more realistically, when he leaves to go into Italian Politics which seems likely to happen soon with Berlusconi’s position seriously wobbling these days.
    Then do what schumacher did (since they’re firing most ppl at ferrari anyway – not that i support that but it’s what they’re doing) and poach all the former Renault guys Fernando won his championships with – won’t be that hard since they’re all leaving Renault in droves anyway: Bob Bell left last year (managing director but now at Merc iirc), Steve Nielsen left this week (sporting director), Tim Densham (retired designer). Add to that Pat Symonds who will have lived out his ban from F1 after ’12 following singapore gate. Then Ferrari will be back to winning ways. They will get some wins ofc, and nando is great, but they won’t have the best car out of the box anytime soon. They got the resources to copy and develop so they’ll still win races, but they need to be innovators again to be WCC challengers (and dump Massa lol)

  10. Theo says:

    Pole: Webber. Vettel has to run out of luck at some point right?

    1st: Vettel. Something will happen to Webber😀.
    2nd: Hamilton. I think he will get his act together and put in a solid performance.
    3rd: Alonso.

  11. Yusei Gaga says:

    Pole: F. Alonso / Ferrari : 1:36,9 – 1:37,2

    Winner 1st Place: F. Alonso / Ferrari 5th (69) –> 5th (94)

    2nd Place: J. Button / McLaren 2nd (101) –> 2nd (119)

    3rd Place: K. Kobayashi / Sauber Ferrari 11th (25) –> 8th (40)

    I say Alonso finally gets his act together, and has a bit more luck this time around. He’s an amazing driver, who has shown he can win on a not-so-good car, so I say he gets the win and pole, just for Spain, also Ferrari have got a very good car for the conditions of the track.

    I say that Jenson gets Second Place. He is showing he’s definitely better than Hamilton this season. Hamilton’s got talent, but too much of a hot head. Seeing the track, I think it suits Jenson better.

    And I threw in Kobayashi in 3rd, because he is amazing. He has gotten 25 points in a Sauber, almost as much as Schumacher (26), Rosberg (26), Heidfeld (29), Petrov (31), and Massa (32). He is a very spectacular driver, who will take care after his tyres, and probably will go to 1 less pitstop than the rest, so I think he gets in 3rd.

  12. Ferrari123planb says:

    fuck man finger boy does it again. he gave me the finger!!! ughhhh but im still very pleased with alonso beating one of the red-bulls to grab second. cant wait for the silverstone predictions.

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